A federal judge Tuesday blocked Georgia from enforcing a new state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.
In issuing the preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy said the law amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax because the state is not doing enough to make ID cards available to those who cannot afford them.
The requirement "is most likely to prevent Georgia's elderly, poor and African-American voters from voting," Murphy wrote. "For those citizens, the character and magnitude of their injury - the loss of their right to vote - is undeniably demoralizing and extreme."
So far, the law has been used only for local elections. The injunction could prevent its use during municipal elections Nov. 8.
Voter and civil rights groups sued over the new law, which eliminates the use of other forms of voter identification, such as Social Security cards, birth certificates or utility bills. Supporters, including Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, argued that the measure would help prevent fraud.
Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2004 Federal Election and Matters Related Thereto
The Committee recommends that, at the next Federal Election, those wishing to cast a provisional vote should produce photographic identification.
Voters unable to do so at the polling booth on election day would be permitted to vote, but their ballots would not be included in the count unless they provide the necessary documentation to the DRO by close of business on the Friday following election day. Where it was impracticable for an elector to attend a DRO’s office, a photocopy of the identification, either faxed or mailed to the DRO, would be acceptable. Those who do not possess photographic identification should present one of the other forms of identification acceptable to the AEC for enrolment.
The Committee does not support the introduction of proof of identity requirements for general voters on polling day at the next election.
Instead, the Committee recommends that the AEC report to the JSCEM on the operation of proof of identity arrangements internationally, and on how such systems might operate on polling day in Australia.
The Committee recommends that, at the next Federal Election, the AEC encourage voters to voluntarily present photographic identification in the form of a driver’s licence to assist in marking off the electoral roll.
This is just an extra obstacle that will fall disproportionately on the poor, the elderly, and the marginalised - people unlikely to vote for the Coalition. The committee produces no evidence to show that fraud has effected voting.
The sad truth is that the JSCEM report is really not much more than a Coalition attempt to introduce US Republican party techniques for suppressing the vote. Australia has the fairest enrolment and voting system in the world. It follows, as simple logic, that the Coalition now wants to import the worst features of the US electoral system, features that, without exception, favour the Coalition.
The report contains a number of other recommendations that attack the right to vote. I'll deal with them over the next few days.
Australia is the only remaining democracy without a bill of rights. The right to vote is entirely in the gift of the federal parliament. There is no way for an Australian court to protect the people in the way the US court has done.